Meet the Team: Singapore’s first Sustainable Event trio

In October 2021, three members from Marina Bay Sands’ Sales team became the first in Singapore to attain one of the main event sustainability credentials in the meetings and events industry –Sustainable Event Professional Certificate (SEPC) by the Events Industry Council (EIC).

Developed by global business events industry leaders and sustainability experts, the SEPC programme is targeted for event professionals who are interested in accelerating sustainability and social impact in their organisations and the global business events. It provides guidance in the areas of sustainability, social impact and event management. We speak to the trio – Ailynn Seah, Winnie Ho and Jun Tan – to find out more about their learning journey and what it means to be a certified Sustainable Event Professional in their own words.

Q: What’s the importance of gaining new knowledge and tools to design and implement sustainable events via the Sustainable Event Professional Certificate (SEPC) programme?

Ailynn Seah, Vice President of Sales, MIC and Association:
Programmes like the SEPC put us right on track in catalysing a sustainable transformation across the events industry. We know that we are in the good company of a community with like-minded industry peers, and we get to share knowledge and exchange best practices. Such peer-to-peer sharing is usually hard to come by and it also educates us on the effective methodology for sustainable events.

Being part of a widely recognised programme also allows event planners like ourselves to get acquainted and familiarise ourselves with the industry benchmark. While the team at Marina Bay Sands has the experience in organizing sustainable events, it’s always an eye-opener to draw experiences from industry bodies and leaders who have eyes on this emerging trend.

We hope to be able to apply what we have learnt from the programme to help our clients to further elevate their next green meeting experiences at Marina Bay Sands.

Q: Have you seen a shift in clients’ perspective with regards to sustainable events? How do you think sustainable event management will evolve in the event meetings and conference industry amidst a COVID-endemic backdrop?

Ailynn: “Green is the new black” has been talked about even during pre-pandemic times. Although sustainability has taken a back seat during the pandemic but as event meetings professionals, our role has evolved to become strategic overseers with a lens for the long-term outcomes of our industry. Over the years, we’ve seen an increasing number of clients who prioritise sustainable practices at their events as a strategy to shift mindsets and behaviours of their communities. They truly believe that sustainability is not just about being operationally responsible, but as a way of life.

Beyond incorporating green practices into their events, ensuring the mental well-being of delegates is also a key consideration when physical events return in a bigger way. As the COVIID-situation continues to evolve, there will be anxieties of delegates returning to in-person events. It is thus crucial to work with our clients to explore new ways of engaging their communities that not only enrich the overall event experience, but also generate intangible benefits for all.

Q: After going through the SEPC programme, how do you think the Sales team at Marina Bay Sands can value-add for clients in the future of event planning?

Winnie Ho, Assistant Director of Sales: As an event organiser and meeting planner, I find the SEPC programme has provided me with the tools to better incorporate sustainable elements in our clients’ events. It has also improved the way we conceptualise different sustainable practices for our clients. I’ve learnt to evaluate each event and assess how we can make it more environmentally friendly from food and beverage sourced and served at events, material resource management right down to supply chain management.

Over the course of the programme, I began to view the importance of executing a sustainable event in a more holistic manner. This has helped both our team and clients to realise that a green event is not just about addressing environmental concerns or conserving our resources, but also a chance for us to acknowledge the significant impact we can bring about for the society at large.

Jun Tan, Sales Manager: From my personal observation, sustainability is still a relatively new concept for many. Very often, clients share with us that they are aware of “sustainability” as a buzzword but they don’t know where to start and often feel lost. Since completing the certification, I am able to put myself in the shoes of my clients, explaining the concept and debunking some of the misconceptions that they have about organising sustainable events.

In our line of work, every bit of relevant knowledge counts, and it reassures our clients that we have the expertise in implementing new and innovative sustainable initiatives for them. As my clients are primarily from the Exhibitions sector, I feel that there’s a lot of room for them to explore and incorporate green practices into their events. I’m really excited to engage my clients on a deeper level and brainstorm ways to make their events greener.

Q: What was your key takeaway after attending the course and attaining the SEPC certification?

Jun: Before I attended the course, I had a microscopic view on sustainable events. I was under the impression that sustainable events were still gaining traction in the industry and what we have done previously could be considered as extensive efforts. Post-certification, I am pleasantly surprised to learn that there are a multitude of organisations which are already doing so on a large scale. I’m heartened to know that we are not alone in championing for sustainable events. I’ve even started to identify potential clients whom I can propose ideas to. I am looking forward to combining the knowledge I’ve learnt to see how I can integrate another passion of mine, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), seamlessly in sustainable events for my clients.”

Winnie: Every small action makes a world of difference. As a host for over hundreds of events in a year at Sands Expo and Convention Centre, the choices we make across the venue as we plan for each one of these events add up to our overall event footprint and create a tremendous cumulative impact on the larger community. I’m personally excited to see what more we can do to help further cement Sands Expo and Convention as an industry leader on this front.

Ailynn: This three-month programme has been a rewarding journey for us. What struck me was the expertise and insights offered by the programme. The numerous case studies gave us a comprehensive understanding, yet practical pointers on how venues and event planners can help conduct sustainable events.

I’d say my biggest takeaway from SEPC is the awareness of the breadth and depth of sustainability initiatives out there. It has certainly enhanced my knowledge and understanding of sustainable events.